Gayville-Volin School Opens Polls To Its Students

GAYVILLE — The polls weren't just open to adults in Gayville and Volin on Tuesday for Election Day.

While most students weren't able to vote in the actually election, they were able to cast their ballot in a school-wide election.

When the votes came in, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin was the students' choice to win South Dakota's lone House of Representatives seat and Dennis Daugaard was the favorite for South Dakota's governor.

The school had it right on the governor's race as Daugaard came away with the victory, but it was Republican Kristi Noem who won the House seat.

Also, Initiated Measure 13, the legalization of medical marijuana, and Referred Law 12, the smoking ban, both passed by one vote, each prevailing 30-29.

The students predicted the smoking ban to pass, but medical marijuana failed to pass on Tuesday.

The students also voted on attorney general, state auditor, state treasurer, Public Utilities commission, commissioner of Schools and Public Lands, Amendment K and Amendment L.

"I think voting is an extremely important part of being an American, especially knowing who to vote for, who the candidates are and what the issues are," said Gayville-Volin Elementary Principal Dr. Jesse Sealey, who helped organize the vote. "Even our kindergartners are aware of the smoking ban, because it's something that affects them.

"It's important for students to know what's on this ballet is affecting their day-to-day lives," Sealey added

While this isn't the first time Gayville-Volin has voted on Election Day, it's not as limited as it once was.

"Our third- through seventh-grade social studies teacher did it in the past with her students, but this year we expanded it from kindergarten through 12th grade," Sealey said. "I'm very interested in politics, and after our teacher moved to teach first grade, I thought this would be a good way for me to get involved in the classroom."

The teachers and students prepped for the vote on Tuesday. They went over the candidates and their platforms, and also the measures on the ballot.

Sealey said there was a high level of anticipation heading into Election Day at the school.

"I think they were excited about it because we built up on it," he said. "We kind of gave them a precursor of what to expect. They've had the background information on the candidates, and we try to keep it as simple as possible."

Sealey added that he has been impressed with what the students have picked up on during the campaigns.

He also cautioned students, when following the campaigns, they couldn't always believe what's on television.

"We kind of gave the warning that there was a lot of mudslinging, and you can't believe all of it," he said.

Sealey said he heard a lot of different ways of how students made up their minds on who to vote for as they were getting ready to cast their ballots.

"Some of them got a feel for what mom and dad were thinking, and I know one students made a comment that he voted a straight ticket," he said. "One person even asked a friend who they voted for."

Sealey said getting conversation going about voting was one of the purposes behind the school-wide election.

"It gets them talking about the campaign, and that's how they hear about it, by talking to their peers," Sealey said.

Seventh-grader Madison Dean had a couple of different ways to determine how she voted.

"My friends and I were at the Dakota Days parade and I had (Secretary of State candidate) Ben Nesselhuf stickers all over me," she said. "I didn't vote for Dusty Johnson because he gave my friend a call up but not me."

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